Derek Medlin

Analyzing the movie everyone has seen 1,000 times

Posted February 22, 2012

Following North Carolina's 86-74 victory over rival (yes, rival) NC State on Tuesday night, folks analyzing the game had a pretty easy job to do. Kendall Marshall's career night, the Pack's continued foul trouble, C.J. Leslie finally having success against UNC and 19,000+ fans ready to rumble over a three-day old situation with Karl Hess pretty much told the story.

NC State had a solid plan and executed it fairly well, but North Carolina was just better.

But lost in the post-game discussion of whether or not the Tobacco Road rivals are actually rivals was what the game means for both teams moving forward.

The knee-jerk reaction to NC State's first three-game losing streak of the season wasn't surprising, but the assumption that the Wolfpack are now done without a run to the ACC Championship game in a couple of weeks ignores what is going in the middle of the ACC and nationally.

The bubble is soft, providing NC State ample opportunity over the final two weeks of the regular season to get back on the "Last Four In" side of Joe Lunardi's (Joey Brackets) next NCAA Tournament graphic. Road games against Clemson and Virginia Tech sandwiched around a home rematch with Miami make the path difficult, but it's certainly not impossible.

Depending on what Virginia does in its final three regular season games (UNC, FSU, at Maryland), getting to 10-6 would likely put NC State in the four or five spot heading into the ACC Tournament. If it ends up being five, getting to Saturday with wins over the last place team and Virginia might be enough to get State in the dance.

As for Carolina, Tuesday's win didn't just keep the Tar Heels on track in the race for the regular season ACC title -- it showed the somewhat unlimited ceiling this team has if Kendall Marshall can produce more than just assists.

Thanks to Marshall's career night, Tyler Zeller and John Henson's relative lack of production -- even on an 'off night,' the two still combined for 28 points and 21 rebounds -- went largely unnoticed.

And while expecting performances similar to Tuesday's 22-point outburst would be way too much at this point, a Carolina team that could get 12-15 points from Marshall on a consistent basis late in the season very quickly becomes not only a favorite in the ACC, but nationally. This could easily be a one game wonder situation, but if it's not, watch out.

It would certainly come in handy against teams like Kentucky and Syracuse, both of which have the personnel to bother Henson and Zeller in the post. Perhaps Tuesday's game could be the one that gets Marshall going in that direction. No doubt Roy Williams wouldn't mind.

The outcome of Tuesday night's showdown might have looked like a movie we've all seen 1,000 times (or maybe 12, since that's where UNC's win streak over the Pack now sits), but the way both teams played provided an interesting look ahead to the rest of the season.

15 Comments

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  • buckets112 Feb 22, 2012

    state's margin of error is razor thin...if one facet of their game isn't there they struggle (see wood's shooting woes the last 3 games). they just don't have enough firepower to get over the hump like duke or unc. in state/unc game 1 the pack got destroyed inside but shot the long ball well, it was the complete opposite in game 2 but the result was the same. state has only played a complete game twice this year (at wake, bc at home). then again who knows, gott may cash in some favors from the bball gods and state will get the magic eye in the acc tourney.

  • iron fist Feb 22, 2012

    State has improved a lot this year I expected more wins from them a(just not against UNC) only way they make the NCAA is to win the ACC tourney its possible with the right seating but it will be a difficult road. GO HEELS

  • StunGunn Feb 22, 2012

    View quoted thread


    I agree. State's hopes of dancing in March aren't over. They have work to do, but that brass ring is still there for the taking.

  • 903 national champions Feb 22, 2012

    View quoted thread


    Have you seen Coach K's track record in the ACC Tournament?

  • duane11 Feb 22, 2012

    View quoted thread


    good point...these guys have been around long enough to avoid bonehead plays, but they dont....and Brown is not the one you want with the ball at crunch time..he failed again before the half against unc...he makes a habit of failing miserably when he has the ball and the shot clock is running down....i just keep seeing him fail to get off a good shot time and again, or facilitate someone else getting a good shot...he just doesnt know what he wants to do with the ball at crunch time, its excruciating to watch

  • mxteam44 Feb 22, 2012

    View quoted thread


    Very good points! Howell is a handful for a lot of teams, but he does no good sitting on the bench. He had a couple of very silly fouls last night, and those are the kinds of fouls that he needs to learn to avoid. You can still play defense, but swatting at the ball is not a good idea when you already have 3 fouls early in the 2nd half. Guys have to get rid of that "you're not scoring on me" mentality sometimes, and just step aside, let the guy score, then move on to the next possession. There are no "next possessions" if you're sitting on the bench.

    Coach G has the boys playing much better than last year, so Pack fans have to be excited about the improvement! Not quite there yet, but not as far away as you were last year.

    Fun game to watch last night! UNC stretches out a lead, Pack comes back to within 6, UNC stretches it out again, Pack comes fighting back again. Fun, FUN game to watch!

    Go Heels!!!

  • Wheelman Feb 22, 2012

    State's number one problem is that they have not learned how to play smart and stay out of so much foul trouble. Until they do that, they're not going to have much success against higher ranked teams. When you got a short bench and key players are in serious foul trouble less than halfway through the second half, you're not going to win many of those games. The game was still in reach last night until that started happening. And, it's been this way more than once in the last few games. These aren't freshmen who are making these mistakes.

  • Zaknow Feb 22, 2012

    State has come along way this season after last year. Gottfred is on the right path. State has a lot of talent and needs to build some confidence. The next three games are important for now and then see if they can get a signature win in the tournement! Go Pack!

  • TheSTATEment Feb 22, 2012

    State played really well last night. Leslie was the leader of the pack but Wood just doesn't seem to have it. I think a move of Alex Johnson to the point and Brown to the shooting guard would improve this team. Painter also provided good minutes.

  • adibu Feb 22, 2012

    I'm just hoping we get another shot at Duke somehow. That would be our best bet for a win against the top 3.

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